Grecian Couch (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

1815-25
American
maple, original blue-green paint, yellow paint, gilt decorations; reproduction rush seat, original English gilt brass mounts by Messenger and Sons, Birmingham, England;
probably Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Overall: 32 1/4 × 66 1/4 × 19 in. (81.92 × 168.28 × 48.26 cm)
2002.523

In the early 1800s, American furniture designers remained closely attuned to European fashions – including le gôut grec (the Greek taste). This particular wave of neoclassicism swept England and the Continent, celebrating ancient Greece for its “purity of design.”

Often produced in pairs, Grecian couches usually flanked a fireplace within the drawing room. This example’s scrolling arm, curved sides, and swept-back saber legs recall the simple, elegant lines appreciated in Greek forms – particularly the klismos chairs pictured on ancient vases. The couch’s painted and stenciled surface, however, is an American treatment favored in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The original blue-green pigment was uncovered during careful conservation treatment that involved removing an 1880s coating of black paint.

Neo-classical
Floyd D. and Anne C. Gottwald Fund
O’Leary, Elizabeth L., Sylvia Yount, Susan Jensen Rawles, and David Park Curry. American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Charlottesville: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with the University of Virginia Press, 2010. (No. 24, p. 71-73).

Roy Proctor, “Bringing the World to Richmond,” The Richmond-Times Dispatch, Friday, March 8, 2002, p. C2, b&w ill.

Newsletter of the Decorative Arts Society, Vol. 10, No. 2, Summer 2002, p. 13, ill.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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